The President of Finland (Suomen Tasavallan Presidentti; Republiken Finlands President) is the Head of State in Finland. The office was created in 1919. The President of the Republic is elected for a term of six years. Since 1994, no president may be in office for more than two consecutive terms. Under the constitution, the President must be a native-born Finnish citizen.
After Finland's independence and the Civil War in Finland the matter of republic or constitutional monarchy was much debated (see Väinö I of Finland), and the outcome was a compromise: a rather monarchy-like, strong presidency with great powers over Finland's foreign affairs and appointment of cabinet and officers of the civil service. The constitution was changed in year 2000, to distribute some of this power to the Parliament and the cabinet. The new constitution specifies how principles of Parliamentarism are to be followed (which Finland's presidents have done since 1937 anyway).
Election and Inauguration
Candidates for President can be nominated by registered parties which have received at least one seat in the preceding parliamentary election. A candidate may also be nominated by 20,000 enfranchised citizens.
Between 1919 and 1988, the President was elected indirectly by an electoral college made up of electors chosen by voters in the presidential election. In the 1988 presidential election, a direct and an indirect election were conducted in parallel: if no candidate would gain majority, the president was elected by an electoral college formed in the same elections. Since then the president has been elected by a direct popular vote. The elections are two-staged. The first stage of voting takes place on the third Sunday of January in the election year: if no candidate wins the majority in the first stage, the top two candidates rerun in the second stage three weeks later.
There have been several exceptional presidential elections. The first president (Ståhlberg) was chosen by the Parliament due to the transition rule of the constitution. In 1940 and 1943, the 1937 electoral college chose the President, as it was felt that a popular election could not be arranged due to the war. In 1946 and 1973 the Parliament appointed the president under special laws.
The President-elect assumes office on the first day of the month following the election by making the following solemn affirmation at a ceremony before Parliament:
"I, N.N., whom the people of Finland have elected President of the Republic of Finland, affirm that in the execution of my office as President I shall sincerely and faithfully observe the Constitution and laws of the Republic and to the best of my ability promote the success of the Finnish people."
The President has the use of three properties for residential and hospitality purposes: the Presidential Palace and Mäntyniemi, both in Helsinki, and Kultaranta in Naantali on the west coast.
The President’s functions and powers are directly defined in the Constitution. In addition to those specified there, the President also discharges functions assigned to him or her in other laws. The President declares each Annual Session of Parliament open and closes the last Annual Session. This is done in a speech at each opening and closing ceremony. The President appoints the Prime Minister and the Council of State, the Governor and other Members of the Board of the Bank of Finland, Provincial Governors and officers of the Finnish Defence Forces.
The President must sign and approve all acts adopted by Parliament before they become law. He or she must decide on ratification within three months of receiving the act and may request an opinion from the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court before giving assent. Should the President refuse assent or fail to decide on the matter in time, Parliament reconsiders the act and can readopt it with a majority of votes cast. The act will then enter into force without ratification. If Parliament fails to readopt the act, it is deemed to have lapsed.
The President conducts Finland’s foreign policy in co-operation with the Government and decides upon relations with other states and actions in international organisations or negotiations. Decisions on war and peace are taken by the President with the assent of Parliament.
The President is the Supreme Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, but may delegate this position to another Finnish citizen. The President, as Grand Master, awards decorations and medals belonging to the Orders of the White Rose of Finland, the Lion of Finland and the Cross of Liberty to Finnish and foreign citizens. The President makes an annual New Year’s Speech on 1 January.
In the first years of Finland's independence Finland had two Regents (or Protectors of State) and an elected king, although the latter renounced the throne:
List of Presidents of Finland
Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg (1919–1925)
Lauri Kristian Relander (1925–1931)
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud (1931–1937)
Kyösti Kallio (1937–1940)
Risto Ryti (1940–1944)
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1944–1946)
Juho Kusti Paasikivi (1946–1956)
Urho Kekkonen (1956–1982)
Mauno Koivisto (1982–1994)
Martti Ahtisaari (1994–2000)
Tarja Halonen (2000–)